I had dropped the Boy at the club. He was in a bit of a mood. Someone had said something that had made him cross. All was fine though. He was going to hang out with some mates after the club, so I was collecting him later.
I could have gone home, but the other boy needed collecting too, so thought what was the point driving backwards and forwards all night. I sat in the car park of the local out-of-town shopping centre, looking at the choice of food outlets. I wasn’t hungry, but needed to eat at some point. It took twenty minutes or so to decided, I headed across the car park. I was esentially killing time. I got food. I ate food. I don’t remember what food. I was staring out of the window. I looked at my phone. I was simply waiting for the time to collect them both. I could go round the supermarket, again, like I usually do while waiting for them.
I have been told it is an invasion of their privacy, but I do intermittently check their Facebook pages, just to check everything is OK. I logged into the Boys’s account, I think to check he was not on-line when he should be at his club. He was chatting to some one. He was chatting to a man.
A man who is 22 years older than him.
A man who we have had concerns about before. A man who I had said was being inappropriate. A man who had not said anything particularly wrong…yet…
Boy – I want a cig. (cigarette)
Man – Hi there! How are you? (smiley face)
Boy – Am fed up, I need a cig.
Man – Why are you fed up? (concerned face)
Boy – A lad has annoyed me up. I need a cig
Man – Oh no, that’s not good. Go and ask your mates for a cig.
Boy – No one’s got one any. Can you get me some?
Man – Ermmmm
Boy – Please, I really need a cig
Man – What’s in for me?
Boy – Dunno
Man – At least a kiss
Boy – Eh?
Man – At least a kiss, with tongues…..
The signal dropped…..nothing. The world stopped. I heard nothing. I saw nothing.
The chat continued. The Man was going to get cigarettes. He wanted more than a kiss. The Boy was waiting in the car park for The Man.
I was 20 minutes away, at least. It was rush hour. I could see the traffic was crawling.
The only contact number I had, was for the group leader via Facebook. She would not be on-line if she was there. I sent her a message.
CALL ME NOW – IT’S URGENT.
I logged back in to his Facebook. The Man was at the other supermarket. He asked what the Boy was wearing. He said.
The Man said, “Oh, it must be your brother I can see”
I called the other boy. He was at the supermarket, he was with a group of friends. He had not see the Man.
The conversation was getting more explicit. The Boy was saying he just wanted the cigarettes, The Man asking for more and more in return for the favourite, expensive cigarettes. The Boy was asking him to hurry up.
My phone rang. It was group leader. She was not there tonight, she was working. I told her what was happening. She would ring me back.
The online conversation stopped.
The Boy was still on-line. He had stopped chatting to the Man.
The Boy went off-line.
Crashing, lonely silence.
My phone rang. It was the loudest I had ever heard it. It startled me.
It was the group leader.
The Boy was safe. He was the other leaders. I breathed.
I set off. I don’t remember the journey. I telephoned the Boy. I made some excuse about shopping, and was heading past where he was, did he want collecting? He said yes, a definite yes, then with a please. He said there was someone who wanted to speak to me. Another voice spoke to me:
“This is the police. There has been an incident this evening. Your son is safe, and he has been very brave talking to us….”
Later, we are sat in the car.
Me and the Boy.
I asked if he was hungry.
“Why do you always ask that? I am always hungry!”….